And finally, after five postponements in four years, the political parties have got together and once more bought more time by extending the CAâs term by another three months. It isnât an exaggeration to say that everyone is a bit relieved because the country was careening to the edge. This is not the best case scenario, but it is not the worst either.
How a compromise can be found even by end-August in a state of such extreme identity-laced politics is anybodyâs guess. But at least we havenât hurriedly passed a faulty constitution that would have left everyone violently unhappy, and created long-term structural damage to the nationâs body politic.
Even so, this is going to one mad monsoon. All sides in the countryâs widening multi-ethnic cleavage are going to have more time to sharpen their knives. If mindsets donât change, extending the CA mandate will just prolong the torture for ordinary Nepalis.
No matter which side of the divide you are on, it has been clear for some time now that issues like state structure and form of governance cannot be decided at a time of volatile politics. In the past months we have witnessed politicians negotiating long-term provisions in the new constitution on the basis of immediate gain in the power dynamics of government.
After dragging the country through a needless war, prolonging the transition by repeatedly shifting goal-posts to delay the peace process, Nepalâs biggest party is reaping the whirlwind of the ethnic politics it unleashed. A lot of the blame must go to the Maoist party and its chairman for his all-consuming ambition to be Nepalâs first directly-elected president, and to craft a constitution to suit that goal. He has exploited identity politics, using the disagreements over federalism to delay any progress on the statute unless it has a provision for executive presidentship. He has manipulated the shameless greed of the discredited leaders of the democratic parties, and openly exhorted ethnicists to take to the streets. And the result is what we have today: a complete mess.
Early British residents posted by the East India Company in Kathmandu in the 19th century marveled at the inability of Nepalâs rulers to see what was in their own self-interest. Not much has changed. Both sides of the ethnic federalism debate are in a state of denial. The post 1990 neo-elite ruling class refuses to see just how ethno-centric and caste-dominated the composition of the current leadership of their parties is. Why are they surprised that even moderate Janajati leaders have united across party lines to form a caucus to protest exclusion? Any attempt to point out this lopsidedness is taken as an attempt to divide up the country. And on the other side are activists who have no qualms about using identity politics and taking the country to the brink by carrying out a dangerous experiment in slicing up the country into ethnic bantustans.
Neither side is listening to the people. Across the country, across all social strata, across ethnic and caste groups, citizens when asked have rejected federalism by identity. The silent majority wants peace and justice, and is against stoking ethnic tensions for political gain. But in this country when was it ever about what the people want? If our current crop of leaders had half the common sense that ordinary Nepalis show, we would not be in the mess we are in today.
The brinkmanship of the past month now means that the country is damned if it does, and damned if it doesnât go through with ethnicity-based federalism. Faced with this fait accompli, the only thing we can do put some harm reduction measures in place: work towards patching up the countryâs frayed social fabric, keep channels of communications open, protect open society and ethnic harmony, and use the next three months to stablise the ship of state.Go back to previous page